Month into pregnancy loss, 29 percent of women suffered post-traumatic stress, 11 percent depression, says study
The study that was conducted by Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research at Imperial College Lond found after nine months of a failed pregnancy, about 18% of women had post-traumatic stress, 17% moderate to severe anxiety, and 6% had moderate to severe depression
One in six women experience post-traumatic stress after a failed pregnancy due to miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
Some of these women silently suffer even after nine months since the loss, according to a study that analyzed the psychological impact of early-stage pregnancy loss.
"Pregnancy loss affects up to one in two women, and for many women, it will be the most traumatic event in their life. This research suggests the loss of a longed-for child can leave a lasting legacy, and result in a woman still suffering post-traumatic stress nearly a year after her pregnancy loss," says Professor Tom Bourne, lead author of the research from Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research at Imperial College London.
What is worse, the psychological effects are often “brushed under the carpet”, Jessica Farren, an obstetrician and gynecologist at St. Mary's Hospital in London, told NewScientist.
The researchers suggest routine screening post-pregnancy loss, can help such women receive specific psychological support.
Women go through a miscarriage in the first three months of pregnancy. Among women who know they are pregnant, about 10% to 25% will have a miscarriage, according to Medline Plus. "More generally the culture must change, so women and their partners feel able to talk about miscarriage more generally in society and specifically to colleagues and employers, Bourne tells MEA WorldWide (MEAWW). Miscarriage, he adds, should be treated no differently to stillbirth.
Ectopic pregnancies, on the other hand, are deadly if pregnancy is allowed to continue. About 2% of all pregnancies are ectopic, meaning a fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube, a tiny structure connecting the uterus to the ovary, instead of the uterus.
Bourne and his colleagues decided to carry out this study after noticing psychological distress among their patients. "This led to a small pilot study that in 2016 – which showed alarming levels of posttraumatic stress," Bourne explains. This study formed the basis of the current larger study, he adds.
In this study, the team asked a set of questions to women who experienced pregnancy loss -- 653 of them. These questions were designed to gauge the extent of stress, anxiety, and depression at three-time points: one month after pregnancy loss, then again three and nine months later.
Within a month, nearly 29% suffered post-traumatic stress, 24% experienced moderate to severe anxiety and 11% had moderate to severe depression.
The condition persisted nine months later too. The study found that 18% of women had post-traumatic stress, 17% moderate to severe anxiety, and 6% had moderate to severe depression.
The authors of the study noted that these women were hit severely: with some suffering from intrusive or unwanted thoughts about their miscarriage, nightmares or flashbacks.
The figures are “terrifyingly high”, says Farren. “We have a problem on our hands that we haven’t up until now properly acknowledged or looked to treat,” says Farren.
However, the authors acknowledge one shortcoming: the study used a questionnaire to screen for post-traumatic stress. A more reliable measure of post-traumatic stress is a formal diagnosis of the condition, they add.
In the future, the team hopes to be able to identify women who are at risk of developing psychological symptoms after pregnancy loss. And also to study the impacts of early pregnancy loss on partners and to come up with the best types of treatment.
The study has been published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.